Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Shells ready for data entry

kw: natural history, natural science, museums, research, photographs

One volunteer has been working with the Collection Manager of Mollusks at the Delaware Museum of Natural History to get some recently-acquired shells ready to be cataloged and put away. "Recently acquired" in a museum collection typically means "in the lifetime of the current curator". The shells in the tray shown below were donated to the museum in 2014, so that is "really recent"!

The details below show that each lot has been identified, and one label has the location, date and donor information, which is the same for them all; all were collected on San Salvador Island in The Bahamas. The first detail image shows a slightly unusual item, a shell attached to a sea pen. The shell is the bivalve Chama radians (Lamarck, 1819), one of the Jewel Box Clams. They are called that because of the detailed decoration of their shells. Other items nearby include some chitins (little known 8-shelled mollusks), mussels, ark shells, various clams and some turban snails.

I took these pictures about 9:00 AM today. The volunteers arrive at 9:30, so "someone" spent this morning entering the data for these boxes of shells into the database. The blue tag in with the location and collecting information gives the Accession Number: 2014.MOL.009. This decodes to "the ninth accession of mollusks in 2014". A thank-you letter was duly sent shortly after the shells were delivered to the museum. A lot goes on between "stuff" arriving on a museum's doorstep, and its full incorporation into a research or display collection.

A reminder for potential donors to a museum: Museum research thrives on data. The donor of these shells gave us pretty good information, but it would be even more helpful to have the actual location on San Salvador Island. It is small, only 15 miles long, but has several micro-ecologies that would interest a researcher. Also, the actual date is best. These are dated "Nov 1978". In the Bahamas, not much changes during a month, but in other locations, it could make quite a difference for some species. Gee, aren't we picky!

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